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Excerpts from the House of Justice’s letter of 29 August 2010 to the Bahá’ís of the World on the anniversary of the Master’s departure from the Holy Land in 1910. It marked a decisive new phase in the diffusion of the Faith’s Message to the West and, in turn, to the remaining unopened territories of the earth.
In the course of a mere century, His ineffable influence has effected the gathering together under the banner of the Faith of an actual cross-section of the peoples of the world, making it today – according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica Book of the Year – the geographically most widespread religion, second only to Christianity (1). The manner of His activity serves as an invaluable example for Bahá’u’lláh’s followers in their humble efforts in the path of His service.
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Informal picture of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with Pauline Morse in His arms, Green Acre, United States of America. August 1912.
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THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
29 August 2010
To the Baha’is of the World
Dearly loved Friends,
‘Abdu’l-Baha’s departure one hundred years ago from Haifa for Port Said signalled the opening of a glorious new chapter in the annals of the Faith. He was not to return to the Holy Land for three years. Referring to that historic moment the Guardian would later write: “The establishment of the Faith of Baha’u’llah in the Western Hemisphere–the most outstanding achievement that will forever be associated with ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s ministry–had … set in motion such tremendous forces, and been productive of such far-reaching results, as to warrant the active and personal participation of the Centre of the Covenant Himself….” With the inauguration of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s travels to the West, the Cause of Baha’u’llah, hemmed in for more than half a century by the hosts of enmity and oppression, burst its restraints….
By any earthly measure, ‘Abdu’l-Baha would have seemed ill prepared to carry out the task before Him. He was sixty-six years old, an exile since childhood, with no formal schooling, a prisoner for forty years, in failing health, and unfamiliar with Western customs and languages. Yet He arose, without thought of comfort, undeterred by the risks involved, and utterly reliant upon divine assistance, to champion the Cause of God. He interacted with diverse peoples in nine countries on three continents….
Over the next few years, Baha’is around the world will joyously call to mind the many episodes associated with ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s historic journey. But this anniversary is more than a time for commemoration. The words uttered by ‘Abdu’l-Baha during His travels, and the deeds He undertook with such consummate wisdom and love, offer an abundance of inspiration and manifold insights from which the body of the believers can today draw, whether in their efforts to embrace receptive souls, to raise capacity for service, to build local communities, to strengthen institutions, or to exploit opportunities emerging to engage in social action and contribute to public discourse. We should, therefore, reflect not only upon what the Master achieved and set in motion but also on the work that remains undone to which He has summoned us. In the Tablets of the Divine Plan, He expressed His inmost longing:
O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of “Ya Baha’u’l- Abha” in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the divine teachings! This, alas, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it.
Nearly a century has passed since these words were recorded. Stage after stage of the Divine Plan has been successfully prosecuted. The Faith has been established in all corners of the world. We are present in those places that ‘Abdu’l-Baha yearned to visit. Individuals, communities, and institutions are now endowed with the capacity necessary for systematic, sustained, and coherent action. During this precious period of remembrance, then, let each and every one of His faithful lovers arise and act in His Name. Let them offer their share, no matter how humble, to the progress of the Plan He authored–that priceless and everlasting bequest.
[signed: The Universal House of Justice]
Read the full Message here. Emphasis added.
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‘Abdu’l-Bahá (front, center) on His visit to Germany in 1913, with Baha’is and guests.
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To read the writings of the Faith and to strive to obtain a more adequate understanding of the significance of Bahá’u’lláh’s stupendous Revelation are obligations laid on every one of His followers. All are enjoined to delve into the ocean of His Revelation and to partake, in keeping with their capacities and inclinations, of the pearls of wisdom that lie therein. In this light, local deepening classes, winter and summer schools, and specially arranged gatherings in which individual believers knowledgeable in the writings were able to share with others insights into specific subjects emerged naturally as prominent features of Bahá’í life. Just as the habit of daily reading will remain an integral part of Bahá’í identity, so will these forms of study continue to hold a place in the collective life of the community. But understanding the implications of the Revelation, both in terms of individual growth and social progress, increases manifold when study and service are joined and carried out concurrently. There, in the field of service, knowledge is tested, questions arise out of practice, and new levels of understanding are achieved. In the system of distance education that has now been established in country after country—the principal elements of which include the study circle, the tutor and the curriculum of the Ruhi Institute—the worldwide Bahá’í community has acquired the capacity to enable thousands, nay millions, to study the writings in small groups with the explicit purpose of translating the Bahá’í teachings into reality, carrying the work of the Faith forward into its next stage: sustained large-scale expansion and consolidation.
(The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2010 Message, par. 9)
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(1) “[F]igures, reported in the 1992 Britannica Book of the Year, show the Baha’i Faith as having significant communities in 205 countries, second only to Christianity in its geographic spread.” (Cited from here.)